University remembers Briggs

Tammie Tamara

Tammie TamaraSection Editor

The death of Hilton M. Briggs, president of SDSU from 1958 to 1975, left students and faculty shocked. At age 88, Briggs died Friday in Omaha following a car accident the day before.

The members of FarmHouse, the chapter Briggs started at SDSU, reacted strongly to the news, Farmhouse President Zach Lutz said. “I was very overwhelmed and stunned at the same time,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. We thought he was going to live forever, actually.”

He said he and the other FarmHouse members admired Briggs for “his overall accomplishments in life, what he’s done for the university and what he’s done for Farmhouse as a whole.”

Briggs was instrumental in the development of the university, including overseeing new buildings constructed and enrollment increased. “I don’t think words can describe what he has meant to the university,” Lutz said.

Involved as he was with university affairs, Briggs didn’t overlook the students themselves. “He has come here (FarmHouse) and given speeches before and attended some of our meetings. He was pretty involved with us,” he said.

“He was a very inspirational speaker. When he talked people listened, and there were no ifs, ands or buts about it.”

The FarmHouse members were just treated to his company a week before Thanksgiving.

“Just a week ago from Thanksgiving, he was here for dinner, telling us stories,” he said.

Now Briggs is immortalized for them. “We held him up high on a pedestal,” Lutz said. “He was just one of those people we were glad to know.”

Spanish Professor Pat Beattie knew Briggs back when she was a student at SDSU.

“I’ve known Dr. Briggs since my student days,” she said. “I was a freshman about the same time he came.”

She began teaching in 1968 and had the chance to work with Briggs on various projects.

“He’s a very intelligent person who seemed to be very concerned about the students and the university,” she said.

She admired his commitment. “He was willing to defend the university and whatever decisions were made for the university.”

She remembers a specific example. “If they had taken the College of Engineering away like they threatened to, this would not be nearly the university that it is today,” Beattie said.

“I’m certainly glad that he was willing to put his job on the line. It wasn’t an easy time.”

He oversaw a great deal of improvements during his years with SDSU.

“He was president during the time the university built a lot of buildings. There were a lot of changes. We grew tremendously during those years.”

Even though they had differing opinions at times, she admired his ability to face the issues head on. “He was willing to discuss the problems,” she said.

Mike Reger, vice president of administration, said Briggs had tremendous influence all across the state.

“Dr. Briggs really helped bring SDSU into the modern era during his tenure. He dramatically strengthened this institution and positioned it for all the changes that happened in the last 20 to 30 years.”